The frozen yogurt boom has been one of the bigger food trends the DC area has seen of late, besides cupcakes of course (not much can top those—except for icing). Fro-yo is popular for good reason: Tasty dessert! Probiotic! Options galore! Yet one little shop on 17th Street adds a unique, additional topping: a liberal dollop of whimsy. Helping us celebrate dairy-friendly Shavuot is the modern-day milk and honey at Mr. Yogato, where cups of the cold stuff come right along with lots of laughs.
While you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to start a food establishment, the owner of this shop actually is one. In 2007 Steve Davis came to the city for grad school from California and detected a parched District noticeably lacking in fro-yo options. With the help of family, friends, fellow rocket scientists, dessert enthusiasts and significant support from the area Jewish community, Mr. Yogato was born.
Of course, it was not to be a normal yogurt shop, but instead, “a fun, goofy place to go to,” as Steve proudly notes. Everything about it brings a bit of a giggle, from the name, which was crowd-sourced from passersby in Dupont, to the colorful atmosphere.
And what an atmosphere it is! Few other yogurt shops have rules, but this one does, and they all apply to receiving a discount. Some are sartorial (wearing a kickball shirt, dressing like Bjorn Borg); others involve TV prowess (especially regarding Seinfeld). And every day, there are, on a huge whiteboard, ever-changing trivia questions that burn brain calories just in time for dessert. An even cheekier way to get a discount: agreeing to get a Yogato forehead stamp (take a napkin on your way out). Should customers require more fun, there are board games and video games to play while you eat.
Customer interaction is a critical element at Mr. Yogato. This philosophy began at its founding, which involved, in fact, many members of the local Jewish community. It was at Jewish events that friends discussed the mission and vision of the shop and how to best integrate fun and amusement into every aspect. Now, for example, customers are able to suggest flavors and toppings. Of the rotating cast of more than 40 options, a number have come from customers themselves. Olive oil is on the topping list for that reason, alongside other distinctive items like mochi (flown in specially from California) and agave nectar. A number of toppings are free, including honey.
Ordering here could, therefore, be a bit difficult. Steve recommends the “original tangy flavor with raspberries, pineapple, granola and honey.” And if that’s not traditional enough, well, “We can add a bit of maror.” A unique treat, indeed, where the culture is live, active and a bit zany, too.
Mr. Yogato, 202-629-3531, 1515 17th Street NW, Washington, DC, Sunday-Thursday, 12 pm-11 pm, Friday-Saturday, 12 pm-1 am.
Top photo courtesy of Creative Commons